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Kids Cooking – Small Batch Muffins

 

 

Join us for this episode of…Adventures in Muffin Making!

Kids Muffins - Chocolate Chip and BlueberryThe kids want to do more real cooking, so we have been in the kitchen learning a few times this week. On Saturday morning I thought we would dive into one of their favorite foods – the muffin. Since Cecily likes all kinds and flavors of muffins, and Max only likes chocolate chip, I cut my normal muffin recipe in half, and gave each kid two small bowls, one for making their batch of 6 muffins, and one for mixing the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins which could be easily made at a later date. A homemade muffin mix. This allows each of them to do more measuring, which they really enjoy. But in the chaos of four bowls, two whisks, two kinds of flour, two sets of measuring spoons, not being able to find my certain measuring cup I needed, etc, etc, somehow this happened.

Whoops! We forgot to add the baking powderWe forgot to add baking powder to Max’s dry ingredients. Whoops! 

In the photo above, on the right side is the chocolate chip muffin with no leavening agent. On the left is the correctly mixed chocolate chip muffin. All other ingredients and cooking times are identical.  Big difference! Big lesson in what baking powder does! Intentionally leaving out the baking powder for a whole pan of muffins is too much trouble to teach this lesson, but lucky us, it happened accidentally. I’ll bet they will never forget these muffins.

Ok, at this point in the story I will admit that we ate three of Max’s original unleavened muffins before we got suspicious that something was amiss. Hey, any hot bread with chocolate chips and crunchy sugar topping tastes good. It wasn’t until they started to cool down and take on the texture of a hockey puck that I started to wonder, but I kept quiet. “Mom, on second thought, I don’t really like these muffins.” Busted. Better get on with this teachable moment and make a second batch of muffins.

That was when I realized that we had made another mistake. I had cleverly, too cleverly as it turns out, had the kids mix up the muffin mixes for quick muffins in the future. And I had conscientiously packed the mixes up right away into identically labeled plastic zipper bags. One of which had no baking powder in it. Another teachable moment!!! What luck.

So I put the question to them: How can we tell which bag has the baking powder? I coaxed them toward the technique I thought would work, adding a bit of vinegar to a sample of the mix to see if it fizzed. We discovered a few days ago that baking powder does not fizz nearly as much as baking soda when introduced to vinegar, but it fizzed a little. The kids had another suggestion. They have always been skeptical of my claim that the leavening agent doesn’t affect the taste, and Max brought that up again. So we tasted the two mixes, and sure enough, one of them had a bit of a tangy bite. The other was blandly sweet and floury. We decided the tangy one was the complete mix, and we did the vinegar test to confirm our guess. Knowing what to look for, we did see some bubbles come up on our good sample.

So we mixed it up and baked it and voila! We were right. They rose beautifully and had a tender crumb. We added the baking powder to the remaining mix, and put it away for later. Whew. The chickens enjoyed the three remaining puck-like muffins, and all that was left was the washing up.

The Recipe –

Kids Cooking!

Mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately is a good idea for kids. It will allow them to have a consistently well mixed product without over beating the dry and wet ingredients in the end, which is a no-no for tender muffins. The final product should be mixed only until the wet and dry are just combined for best results. Then fold in whatever flavoring you are using – chocolate chip or blueberry in this recipe, and put the batter right into the muffin tins. A 1/4 cup measure worked perfectly to fill the 6 muffin papers exactly with no leftover batter! I love it when that happens.

If you want to make some dry mixes for later, set the kids (or yourself) up with a couple more small bowls and simply measure out the dry ingredients into them, assembly line style. Then tip the ready mixes into individual plastic zipper bags that have been labeled with a sharpie marker – I usually write the contents plus some notes about what needs to be added to complete the recipe. Store in a cool dry place until needed.

Kids Cooking - Small Batch Muffins
 
Author:
Recipe type: Baking
 
This recipe makes a half-dozen muffins which you can flavor how you choose. Mix up a couple of batches of dry ingredients with a little extra effort while you make your muffins, and you will have muffin mix for quick muffins on another day.
Ingredients
Muffins
    Dry Ingredients
    • ½ c all purpose flour
    • ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
    • 2 tbsp flax meal
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 1½ tsp baking powder
    Wet Ingredients
    • ½ c milk
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1 egg
    Mix-ins
    • up to ¾ c mix-in for flavoring - fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like
    Topping (optional, but recommended)
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tbsp softened butter
    • 2 tbsp flour
    Instructions
    1. First, preheat your oven to 500F and put 6 paper liners in your muffin tin.
    Topping
    1. Get the topping ready first and set aside. Soften the butter and add sugar and flour. Mix with a spoon until all is combined and very crumbly.
    Dry Ingredients
    1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk until well combined.You can use whatever kind of wheat flour you like. You can increase the sugar up to ½ cup if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like muffin.
    Wet ingredients
    1. Put all the wet ingredients into a bowl and whisk until egg is well combined. You can add up to 2 tbsp more oil for a richer muffin or substitute melted butter if you like.
    Combine
    1. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix quickly with a few strokes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so that no dry spots are hidden down there. Add your mix-ins and stir to distribute them evenly.
    Fill the tins
    1. Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to divide the batter between the six muffin papers in the tin. They should be at least ⅔ full. Add the topping by sprinkling it evenly among the muffins.
    Bake
    1. The oven should be preheated to 500F. Reduce temperature to 400F when you put in the muffins, and bake 15-20 mins. Check for doneness after 15 mins - if you are adding frozen fruit like blueberries, you may need a couple of extra minutes.
    Enjoy!

       

       Add the crumbly topping to the filled muffin tins before baking.

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      Recipe: Homemade Granola Bars

      granola bars

      granola bars I started making granola bars a couple of years ago for homemade holiday treats – everyone I give these to loves them, and I do too. Really delicious, but a very sweet candy-like bar, not an “I’m on a diet so I only eat low fat, low sugar granola bars” kind of bar.  For an occasional sweet treat, though, these meet my approval. They are made of real food! Oatmeal, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, honey and butter. All good when eaten separately, GREAT when mixed together. And they smell wonderful!

      Now, granola bars are basically granola plus a binder.  And granola is whatever you want it to be.  Typically there are oats, and I have tried both the expensive brands of rolled oats like Arrowhead Mills and the cheap store brands, and in granola it really doesn’t make much difference, in my opinion.  However in oatmeal – as in the hot cereal -the pricey brands are worth it, so I save my fancy oats for oatmeal, and buy the cheap kind of old fashioned oats when I make granola.  My daughter loves oatmeal, which she called ‘oakmeal’ when she was younger. I remember once making instant brown sugar oatmeal, and her returning the bowl, saying that “These oaks aren’t very good.”  She is a bit of an oatmeal snob.

      So I think any granola recipe would work, just add the binder – with one note – don’t add sugar or oil when you make the granola.  There is plenty of sweet and fat in the binder.  You could also use store-bought granola and just not worry too much about the extra sweetness. If you go that route, based on adding up the quantities in the recipe below, you would need about 4 cups of granola. If you want to add your own mix-ins, just subtract their amount from the granola. Say you wanted to add pecans – add one cup pecans so use  3 cups granola. Theoretically. I have never done it this way but it should work. If anyone tries this, come back and leave a comment telling us how it worked out.

      These are a soft chewy bar, not a crunchy dry bar.

      Sticky Chewy Honey Butter Homemade Granola Bars

      Makes one 8″ square pan of granola bars – how many bars depends on how you cut them up :) In the pictures I am making a double batch for a bake sale, so I used a 9×13 pan and it worked out fine.

      Ingredients:

      Oat mixture:

      2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
      1 1/2 cup chopped nuts
      1/2 c shredded coconut 
      1 cup dried fruit
      optional: up to 1 cup seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower – any that strike your fancy, or all)

      Binder:

      1/2 c honey 
      1/2 c brown sugar 
      1/2 stick butter 
      1/2 t salt

       

      First start the granola – it will take a while to get really toasty.  Heat the oven to 350F. Toast the oats on their own for about 15 minutes, then add the nuts and coconut, and the seeds if you are using them, and toast for another 15 minutes or so.  Set the timer to remind you to stir/check the mixture every 5 minutes.  It tastes best if you get it really golden brown and toasty, but the coconut and nuts can burn if you forget and leave it for even a few minutes.  Add the fruit after you finish toasting the oat mixture.

      When the toasting is complete, put all into a large heatproof bowl.  Metal would be the safest, as we will be adding hot sugar syrup to the mixture.

      nice and toasty!

      nice and toasty!

       

      add the dried fruit after toasting the granola

      add the dried fruit after toasting the granola

       

      While the granola is toasting in the oven, you can start cooking the honey butter to bind the bars together – or if you are using store bought granola just go straight to this step.

      In a medium sauce pan, stir together the ingredients for the binder. Here they are again.

      1/2 c honey
      1/2 c brown sugar
      1/2 stick butter
      1/2 t salt

      Bring to a boil over low-medium heat, and allow to cook at a low boil, gently, for 5 minutes or so.  If it doesn’t boil long enough, the bars will still be delicious, but may fall apart a bit. We are caramelizing the sauce somewhat, I guess. I told you, these are candy-like 😉

      ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

      ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

      Take the honey mix off the heat and let it cool a little, 5 minutes or so.  PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STUFF – IT IS A 3RD DEGREE BURN WAITING TO HAPPEN – NO KIDS SHOULD BE UNDERFOOT WHEN YOU ARE COOKING THIS OR POURING THE SYRUP INTO THE BOWL.  OK, I’m serious, just be careful.

      Pour the syrup onto the granola and turn and stir until it is well covered.

      add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

      add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

      all mixed up!

      all mixed up!

      Pour mixture into an 8 inch square pan, lined with plastic wrap.  In this picture I have the pan lined with foil, because I ran out of plastic wrap – oops! I do NOT recommend the foil – it is very sticky and hard to remove. Definitely run to the store and get plastic wrap before you get started. Waxed paper will not work either.

      Put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top, then press down firmly until the stuff is flat and packed into the pan. Pay special attention to pressing around the edges – it will be crumbly there when you cut them up if it is not pressed down well.

      press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

      press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

      let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

      let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

      Let the mixture cool for several hours or overnight. Cool it in the fridge if you are in a hurry.

      Lift the whole slab out of the pan onto a cutting surface and remove the plastic wrap. Cut the bars with a big heavy knife in whatever shapes you like – I usually do bar shapes, but for the bake sale I did squares.

      cut up the bars with a heavy knife

      cut up the bars with a heavy knife

       

      It is worth the trouble to wrap each bar with plastic wrap, so you can grab one and slip it in your pocket.  Much better than fast food when you are caught away from home and longing for a snack.

      cooking for a cause - the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

      cooking for a cause – the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

      all packed up and ready for the bake sale!
      all packed up and ready for the bake sale!

       

      These bars went out to the Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale, which will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Here is the official bake sale page.

      The sale will be held adjacent to the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers’ Market
      7th and Main, North Little Rock, on Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

      Proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry, so if you are in the central part of the state, please go there and buy generously.

      Thank you!

      Shared with Real Food Wednesday ,  Kelly the Kitchen Kop, what i am eating

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      This week’s Farm Fresh Links – July 18, 2012

      Food Righteousness

      Ouch! Grist turns the tables on our smug reactions to the report that ties bladder infections to factory farmed poultry – “Glad I eat homegrown birds!” was a common reaction I saw on Facebook, and one that I myself felt.  And I am still glad that I limit my family’s intake of factory farmed chicken to almost nothing, but I am taking this reminder to heart – let’s keep working to change the system, even if we have limited our own impact from the system.  Thanks, Grist!

      http://grist.org/food/me-you-and-everything-we-eat-does-food-righteousness-hinder-systematic-change/

       

      Recipe – Simple Cooked Salsa

      This simple salsa recipe is scaled down to just make a bowl of salsa to eat, not for making gallons of salsa from bushels of tomatoes.  I found the recipe too salty, so wait until the salsa has cooked and thickened, then taste for salt.

      http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/simple_cooked_tomato_salsa/

       

      Essential Kitchen Tool – Knife Sharpener

      This knife sharpener was a surprise winner in a Cook’s Illustrated product testing a few years ago.  I bought one after reading their review, and it has been one of the most useful items in my kitchen ever since.  I keep it in the knife drawer and swipe my knife through it a couple of times almost every time I use it.  Cheap, simple, durable – I wish every tool I own worked as well.  If you are in Texarkana, you can buy one at Dot’s Ace Hardware on Richmond Road.

      http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1277730#

       

      Recipe – Melon Cooler

      This one is on my “to try” short list – next week if the market is still swimming in cantaloupes, I am making this! I will let you know how it turns out.

      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Melon-Coolers-354505#

       

      Gardening tips

      Even though it is just now getting to the hottest months of the summer, now is the time to think about the fall garden.  Mother Earth News is always an inspiration.

      http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/fall-garden-zm0z11zmat.aspx

       

      Follow our Sunshine for Dinner – Farm Fresh Links board on Pinterest!

       

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      Sourdough Starter from Scratch: Capturing the Wild Yeast

       

      This is the time of year when I can look forward to baking again soon.  I don’t bake much in the summer because it makes the house too hot, and I am limited to an itty bitty outdoor toaster oven.  Not so good for fussing over bread loaves.  So the cooler weather encouraged me to get a sourdough starter going, to be ready for the bread baking season to come.

      Every few years I experiment with making a starter from scratch – catching the wild yeast and making it grow.  I have had some successes and some failures, but this time I have a very active culture.  Here is how I did it.

      making a sourdough starter from scratch

       

      To make a sourdough mother, you need:

      • Clean glass or enamel bowl
      • Clean spoon
      • Clean distowel
      • 2 cups good quality white flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour)
      • 1 1/2 cups good water (I use well water, but you could use distilled water or purified bottled water – you don’t want to use water that has been chlorinated, like what we call “city water.”  If you wouldn’t put it in your fishtank, don’t put it in your starter.)
      • a couple of cups more flour and water on hand to feed the starter for the first week

      On Day 1, you will mix your 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water in the bowl, with the spoon, and cover with the dishtowel.  Leave it out on the counter in the kitchen.  That is all.  Seems simple, but you have just laid a Cunning Trap for some wild yeast.  If there is any wild yeast floating around in your kitchen (and there probably is), it will begin to grow in your yeast trap, also known as your bread and water mixture.  It may take a couple of days to show itself, or you may get lucky, like I did this time, and you may get a yeast culture growing rapidly right away.  In the picture above, the “mother” (in sourdough circles we call it a “mother” and refer to it as a “her,” now that you are making your own, you can do the same) is only 12 hours old, but you can see the bubbling that indicates the yeast is growing, feeding and respiring.  Those bubbles are what make your bread rise.

      On Day 2, you will feed “her” 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.  As shown above, this is a simple process of dump and stir.  You won’t get her perfectly smooth, just a few swipes with a clean spoon to incorporate the flour and water is good enough; the yeast will do the rest.  If you see a clear fluid on top of the mother when you check it, that is fine, just stir it back in when you feed her.  The fluid is alcohol which is a result of the metabolism of yeast (wine or beer, anyone?) and acts as a natural preservative for your starter and adds flavor to your bread.

      On Day 3, do the same.  Keep on doing this until you have reached Day 7.  At this point, you should use or discard some of the starter, and refrigerate the mother in a glass container (I am using a mason jar).

      **I decided to refrigerate my starter on Day 3, due to its very active nature and the fact that it was already getting very flavorful/sour.  Use your own judgement, these are guidelines, not rules!

      IF you see any kind of mold or pinkish fluid on your starter – it is no good!  Throw it out at once!  The lovely trap of flour and water is desirable to many microorganisms, but the only one that we want to catch is the wild bread yeast.  You may unwittingly catch some other kind.  Just throw it out and try again with fresh and very clean bowl, spoon, and towel.

      Wild Sourdough Starter Links

      Here are some good resources for reading about making a starter from scratch, but I encourage you to go ahead and try it.  You can read and read about this kind of process, and look at various methods and ingredients, but in the end, you just have to try it for yourself.

      My guidelines above are based on the instructions found at “Bread the Mary Jane Way.”  I love how her site expresses the joy of making an elemental baking substance out of thin air, as it were!

      My first experience with setting a Cunning Trap for the wild yeast living in my house came from the encouragement found in my dear old battered King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.  They have quite a bit of that book online and here is the part about the starter.

      There are very detailed instructions and lots of pictures here on the Wild Yeast Blog.

      Soon I will tell you what to do with that starter once you have made it…

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